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The 2005 Most Endangered Sacred Sites List
1. Dampier Rock Art Preserve, Australia
2. Hazaribagh & Karanpura Valley, India
3. Mangyu Gompa Monastery Complex, India
4. Tara Hill, Ireland
5. Carnic Massif and Rosia Montana, Romania
6. Black Hills, Montana, South Dakota & Wyoming, USA
7. Octagon Mound, Ohio, USA

1. Dampier Rock Art, Murujuga, Australia
Why : The Dampier Rock Art precinct has the largest concentrations of Aboriginal petroglyphs in the world some dating to 10,000 years before the present era. The petroglyphs contain cultural and spiritual elements embodying a worldview tied to the landscape. The Dampier Rock Art is the largest cultural heritage site of Australia, and the only surviving patrimony of the Yaburara people.

The Threat: Industrial, residential and petrochemical development have destroyed up to 24% of the petroglyphs. A multi-billion dollar petrochemical plant is being planned to add to already existing industries. It is estimated that this will increase the atmospheric pollution emissions by about 300% and this will destroy remaining petroglyphs.

Nominated By: International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO)

How You Can Help: You can sign an on-line petition to Save Dampier. Please go to this web address and click on "Petition" http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/dampier/web/index.html

photo: Robert Bednarik

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2. Hazaribagh and the North Karanpura Valley, Living Cultural Heritage Site, India

Hazaribagh Plateau
Sitagarha Hill, Marwatari Buddhist Site

Why: This site is a major Buddhist shrine from the Mauryan Period 250 before the present era; it is aligned to dolmen and other megalithic sites and the sacred hill, Marang Buru , of the Birhor indigenous tribe. Marang Buru is also called Juljul and forms the recumbent landscape figure known as a reclining Mother Goddess. On the south is a 65 foot-long stone face called Mahadeva or Great God by the Bihors. Mahadeva is a term used alternately for Shiva and Buddha. The hill and the stone face continue to be worshipped ritually by the Bihors.

The Threat: The Indian Border Security Force who uses the site as a Heavy Artillery Range is bombing Sitagarha Hill behind the Mahadeva stone face.

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Banadag Megalith Stie
Why: This site contains a megalithic stone ceremonial circle consisting of 50 standing stones dating from 5000 years before the present era, and a large bird dolmen, which are oriented towards the recumbent landscape feature known as the Mother Goddess Hill.

The Threat: The northwest side of the hill is being blasted away in a stone mining operation for material used in cement and the southwest side of the hill has a brick kiln operation steadily eroding the earth to a depth of 20 feet and is now only 40 meters away.

Bawanbai Hill
Why: It has been claimed to be man-made, being pyramidal on the East-West axis and tridental on the Northwest side. It follows the lines of sacred geometry connecting with megaliths in the region.

The Treat: Pervasive stone mining has been going on for several decades and the south side of the hill has been eroded in areas up to 250 feet in height and depth.

North Karanpura Valley
Why: The North Karanpura Valley contains evidence of Paleo-Neolithic stone tool culture and numerous painted rock shelters whose iconic traditions are an expression of a continuous living culture whose traditions thrive in the ritual mural iconography of tribal villages. The sacred core of these cultures can be seen in their vernacular architecture, painting and crafts.

Specific sacred places include a sacred grove of Saal trees used by the Sarna animists of the region; a Sasan or burial ground where ancestor worship is practiced, and dance ground are integral to the seasonal spiritual practices of the tribes.dating to the Paleolithic period of the Sarna, Sasan, and Akhara indigenous people.

The Threat: Large-scale opencast mining called the North Karanpura Coalfields Project, on-going since 1985, has already destroyed two-dozen villages and their surrounding landscapes; it is slated to destroy the sacred sites listed above.

Eastern North Karanpura Valley
Isco Rock Art Site:
Rock art is considered to have sacred ritualistic significance and this site, dating from 7000 to 5000 years before the present era, is one of the finest examples in Eastern India. The Isco pictograph site is over 100 feet in length under a rock overhang and also has other deep caves. It is called kobara by the local Munda and Oraon indigenous people whose mud houses come within a few hundred yards of it. The motifs painted on the rock are still found in the tribal architecture of the region.

The Threat: It is threatened by the noise and disturbance of the Rautpara Opencast Coal Project. The project threatens to evict members of the Munda tribal. Poorly planned modifications of the site are being done to encourage visitors; it is degrading the integrity of this ancient fragile painting. Recently, steps have been cut in the rock that will encourage more visitors and flooring has been put on top of important archaeological remains.


photos: Bulu Iman ( except Isco Rock Art Drawing)

Barwadi Punkhri Megalith
Why: This 3 acre site contains a large circle of megaliths with a large circular mound dating from 7,000 - 5000 years before the present era. The site is the center of the sacred landscape comprised of other megalithic sites throughout the Hazaribagh plateau.   Vast quantities of stone tools from the Paleolithic to Iron Ages have been recovered from the site, along with pottery and iron smelting remains. It is still used and considered sacred by the tribal people of the region.

The Threat: This site sits in the middle of the proposed Barkagaon Opencast Coal Project.

Barwadi Punkhri Buddhist Site
Why: This site, 1 kilometer east of the Barwadi Punkhri Megalith, contains numerous Buddhist relics from the Mauryan period including a number of stone reliefs of Bodhisattavas, votive stupas, and other stone relics dating to approximately 250 years before the present era. Pilgrims visit this site for puja (worship) and Kirtan (sacred songs).

The Threat: This site is in the middle of the proposed Barkagaon Opencast Coal Project.

Nominated By: Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH),
Hazaribagh Chapter

3.Mangyu Gompa Monastery, Ladakh, India
Why: This remote Buddhist site lies in Northern India in the Ladakh region that was at one time part of the kingdom of Western Tibet. It is comprised of four Buddhist Temples dating from the 11 th century and a number of stupas of which two are exceptionally significant. They are particularly important for archaeological and historical reasons and play a significant intermediary role between India and Tibet.

The group of temples has a collection of remarkable stucco sculptures and finely detailed wall paintings. It is one of the rare sanctuaries where the mural paintings and sculptures are contemporary to the foundation of the temples. The murals are rare examples in the region of Indo-Tibetan art.

The Threat: The temples and stupas are generally deteriorating from age, weathering, neglect and insensitive and inappropriate interventions resulting in structural damage some of which is of a serious nature. Some temple walls and traditional mud roofs are in danger of collapsing and important paintings and figurines are being lost due to water damage.

Nominated By: Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Dehli Chapter

photo: Jahnwig Sharma

4. Tara Hill and the Sacred Landscape of Skryne Valley, Ireland
Why: Tara Hill, dating from the Neolithic period, was a henge monument, such as Stonehenge and Woodhenge, used for ritual and/or astronomical observations. Recent excavations on the hill have uncovered post holes suggesting the hill was surrounded by a wooden palisade.

The site is featured in numerous stories as the abode of the most powerful Celtic god, Lub and goddess, Medb and the seat of the high-kings of Ireland. It is part of a vast sacred landscape associated with other well-known Neolithic monuments including Loughcrew, Four Knocks, Uisneach, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Boyne Valley: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. It is estimated that there are 140 - 1,000 uninvestigated related sites in Skyne Valley. Tara Hill continues to be used ceremonially in present times.

The Threat: The Irish government has embarked on a massive highway building plan, the largest in Europe. These roadways are threatening many ancient sites, including Tara Hill and Skryne Valley.   The M3 Motorway Scheme, as part of the larger development plan, proposes a 4-lane freeway through the Tara-Skryne Valley with an interchange just north of the Hill of Tara. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2006.

Nominated By: Tuatha: Carad An hEireanhn , The People: Friends of Ireland, an NGO based in North America

How you can help: Please write polite letters to the following officials asking
them to stop the M3 Motorway Project because of the sacred, historic, and
archaeological landscape features present at Tara Hill and the Skyrne Valley.

Irish National Commission for UNESCO
Dept. of Education & Science, Int'l Section
Marlborough Street
Dublin 1, IRELAND

Dept. of Transport
Transport House
Kildare Street
Dublin 2, IRELAND
Minister Mary Hanafin T.D.
Dept. of Education & Science
Marlborough Street
Dublin 1, IRELAND
Clerk of the Joint Committee on Transport
Leinster House
Kildare Street
Dublin 2 IRELAND

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5. Carnic Massif and the Sacred Places of Rosia Montana, Romania
Why : Rosia Montana contains the remains of a Roman gold-mining settlement which is part of a large cultural landscape containing numerous important sacred archaeological features dating from the early Romanian Dacian and subsequent Roman periods. These sites include one of the largest circular Dacian mausoleums (2 nd -3 rd C), Roman cemeteries, and temples dedicated to the gods Silvanus, Ianus, and Geminus among others. A community has continuously occupied the site that now includes 7 churches dating from the 18 th and 19 th centuries.

The Threat : The Romanian Ministry of Culture has rescinded the
protective status given to the site in 2000. This is being challenged in
court to preserve the integrity of the law and the integrity of the
site. The site (has also been) is threatened by Canadian Gabriel
Resources, which intends to develop Europe's largest open cast gold mining project on this site. A recent court battle has assured that for now the site cannot be mined, however, without legal governmental protection, the site could be destroyed by future development.

Nominated By: Alburnus Maior, an NGO based in Rosia Montana

phtos: Jozef Feiler

6. Black Hills, South Dakota, Montana & Wyoming, United States
: The entire Black Hills form a sacred landscape, considered to be sacred to members of the Great Sioux Nation. While specific places, such as Devil's Tower or Mato Paho and Bear Butte, are well known as public parks, they have religious and ceremonial significance for the Sioux. Other areas within the hills are known through oral histories to be sacred: emergence points for human beings, places of healing waters, places for burial rites, gathering places of sacred medicines and ceremonial grounds. All of these specific sites form a sacred unified landscape, the sum of which is sacred. Although individual places continue to be used for spiritual practices, the spiritual connection of the Sioux is to all of the Black Hills.

The Threat: Ongoing mining, logging, housing and tourism development continue to degrade the sacredness of the region and interfere with the sacred practices and beliefs of the Sioux.

Nominated By: Defenders of the Black Hills is a volunteer activist organization based in South Dakota. www.defendblackhills.org

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7. Octagon Mounds, Ohio, United States
The Octagon Mound is part of a sacred landscape that includes burial sites, effigy mounds, spirit pathways and ceremonial astronomical observatories. Dating from the Mound Culture (100 - 400 years before the present era), they are considered to be part of the largest sacred earthworks complex in the world.

The Threat: The Ohio Historical Society has been leasing the Octagon Mound to the private Moundbuilders Country Club and Golf Course since 1910 and in 2004 they renewed the lease for 70 more years. The Golf Course has covered the site with sand traps, fairways, trees and golf cart paths. There is very limited access for the public and for Native Americans who wish to use the site for spiritual purposes.

Nominated By: Native Earthworks Organization based in Pennsylvania, an American Indian activist organization

photo: John Koda


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ssif / preservation / the 2005 most endangered site list